Apple iPhone 5 Release Date: Analyst Says Outlook For Q3 Holds Clues To Next iPhone Launch; Will It Be In June Or October?

on April 14 2012 7:45 AM
iPhone Air Concept
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At a time when rumors surrounding the release date of Apple's next-gen iPhone are torn between June and October with no official words from Apple yet, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has provided another twist to the tale, saying that it's the FYQ3 forecast that would make clear the prospects for an iPhone 5 introduction.

Apple CEO Tim Cook on April 24 will announce the company's fiscal Q2 earnings ended in March. According to Munster, it should produce typical impressive results, with $38.3 billion in revenue and $11.41 in earnings per share (EPS), compared to Wall Street expectations of $36.2 billion in revenue and $9.86 per share.

Munster projected that Apple will report sales of 33 million iPhone, 12 million iPads, and 4.3 million Macs during the Q2 earnings. On the other hand, the Wall Street predicted that Apple will reports sales of 30.5 million iPhone, 13 million iPads and 4.4 million Macs for the same period.

Munster said that Apple sold 37 million iPhone units in the holiday season of 2011, which proves the handset's growing global footprint. But he thinks the next major catalyst for the company will be the launch of a sixth-generation iPhone later this year, though he also expects Apple to announce a full-fledged television set late in the December quarter, with sales starting in 2013, according to Apple Insider.

Assuming an historical average for a decline of 2 percent in revenue in fiscal Q3, and a drop of 9 percent in EPS, Munster is modeling $37.1 billion for Q3 and $9.86 per share, said a report in Barron's.

Munster even said that the outlook for the June Q3 should make clear the prospects for an iPhone 5 introduction as well. He thinks that the release time frame for the next-gen iPhone is of little concern, since the demand is captive.

The most important point is iPhone 5 is coming, and the Street's 8% y/y unit growth estimate for the December-12 quarter is likely too low. While our model currently assumes iPhone 5 in August, it is more likely the phone launches either late in the June quarter or early in the December quarter based on past launches, Munster wrote.

Apple's guidance will offer a hint as to the timing of the iPhone 5. The reality is the 'when' question doesn't matter for shares of AAPL as we believe consumer demand for the iPhone is captive and buyers are unlikely to go out to buy a different phone if launch is not until October.

When To Expect The New iPhone?

Various earlier reports said that the iPhone 5 would be unveiled at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, bringing an end to an eight-month-long life span of the current iPhone 4S.

A recent report in Japanese Apple-watcher website Macotakara also suggested something similar. The report said a Foxconn recruiter revealed during a conversation on TV Tokyo's World Business Satellite (WBS) show that the company was hiring about 18,000 people to manufacture the iPhone 5 which would be sold in June.

But within a week, another Foxconn employee showed up and said that the next iPhone would be unveiled in October. When South Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper asked the employee at Foxconn's Taiyuan factory about the iPhone 5 release date, he replied saying, We just got the order. It [the release] will be around October.

The report in Maeil Business Newspaper also stated that the order for the next iPhone has led Foxconn to begin a massive recruitment drive to ensure that enough hands are on deck in order to meet Apple's release schedule in October.

Although there is no official word on when the upcoming iteration of the Apple iPhone is finally arriving, chances of a fall launch look stronger than that of a summer launch.

Impressive iPhone 4S Sales

Apple would be inclined to pull the trigger on a June iPhone 5 release, had there been a decrease in the iPhone 4S sales, but there's hardly any sign of that so far. In its fiscal first quarter ending Dec. 31, 2011, Apple reported iPhone sales of 37 million, an increase of 128% year-over-year, and the 4S was only released in some markets as recently as January.

According to a Gartner report, Apple had an excellent fourth quarter, selling 35.5 million smartphones to end users, a 121.4 percent increase year on year. The market research firm even predicted that the company's performance in the smartphone sector would continue through the first quarter of 2012 as availability of the iPhone 4S widened.

iOS 6 and WWDC 2012

iMore's Rene Ritchie, who claims to have valuable sources from within Apple under his reach, predicted an October 2012 release for the next-gen iPhone in March.

Ritchie is known for his solid track record with Apple-related news. In August, 2011, he correctly predicted that Apple was going to release its then next iPhone in the first week of October and that the phone would be called iPhone 4S, not iPhone 5. In addition, Ritchie also foretold the new iPad's March 7 unveiling.

Regarding a new version iOS, accompanying the iPhone 5, Ritchie said that every new iPhone launch has seen the release of a new OS version next to it. While there has not been any exact information on how large an update Apple might be planning for iOS 6, 9 months doesn't sound like a lot of time for even a modest release.

The last version, iOS 5, was a major update with key features like iCloud and Siri, and Apple made good use of those 16 months to bring it to market.

If Apple announces an iOS 6 SDK event this spring, like they did from 2008 to 2010, then we may start getting an idea, Ritchie said. If iOS 6 isn't introduced to developers until WWDC, presumably in the summer like 2011, then a fall release would seem a certainty.

In addition, unlike a summer release, the fall release of the next iPhone would ensure that the owners of the current iPhone 4S have completed at least a year into their carrier contracts, according to iDownload Blog. It will allow most of them to purchase a new iPhone at the subsidized price. Releasing the new iPhone before the holidays would also help Apple record good sales.

The Rumored Features of iPhone 5

As Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said, the next-gen iPhone could sport a 4-inch display, contrary to earlier reports of a large 4.6-inch and 3.5-inch screen. Some other sources also said that the device would sport Quantum Dot LED curved glass edge-to-edge display with 1280 x 720 resolutions (367ppi).

9to5mac reported Monday that Apple had internally seeded a prototype next-generation iPhone with the iPhone 4 design. The actual next-generation iPhone is specifically said to not include the iPhone 4/4S design, but Apple is testing these new devices in older casings to throw off leaks, said the report.

According to the report, the iPhone prototypes had a variation of the A5X's S5L8945X architecture and like the new iPad, they were also packing 1GB of RAM.

Jeff Benjamin of iDownloadBlog thinks that the variant in question is probably not an 'A5X' per-se, but an entirely new processor dedicated to the device's smaller form factor, and less visually intensive needs.

Earlier reports suggested that the sixth generation iPhone would feature an A6 processor. It was expected to be a superfast 1.2 to 1.5 GHz processor with 1GB or more of RAM to offer amazing processing capabilities to the smartphone.

As far as the other likely features are concerned, the upcoming iPhone model includes an 8 megapixel (or even higher) camera with the ability to take pictures in the panorama mode, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, iOS 6, 4G LTE technology, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, improved Siri and a much-improved battery life.

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